I want to be in charge of Topps!

I cannot believe that with the year winding down, we collectors are left with Topps Heritage High Numbers Edition but no Turkey Red or Bowman’s Best. While at least we know Turkey Red will make a comeback in 2009 Topps as an insert set, there has been no news about the under appreciated Bowman’s Best.

If you recall, Best made its debut in 1994 and introduced the collecting world to Bowman “Chrome” cards. Unfortunately, in 1997 Bowman released a “Chrome” line and the rest as they say is history. After that, Bowman’s Best became the middle child of the Hobby.

Bowman’s flagship was for the dull collector who didn’t appreciate flash and wanted to complete a set. For those young “Joe Collector” type, Bowman Chrome offered everything you could want and in 2001 with the Albert Pujols autograph became the #1 product of the Hobby. Where did that leave Bowman’s Best?

In the gutter, that’s where. Topps had decided to shelf a legendary product so they can put out one more product featuring the ridiculously ugly ’08 Topps design (High Numbers). That’s like Britney Spears putting out two albums in one year because she thought we just couldn’t get enough of it. Sorry, as a collector who has bought Topps since 1990 I can honestly say 2007 was the absolute worst design of a Topps flagship I have ever seen. Thank goodness 2009 bringsĀ  change (link).

Now, as far as Bowman’s Best is concerned: does it deserve a return in 2009? Bowman’s Best once ruled the Hobby with Vladimir Guererro and Andruw Jones Refractor rookie cards and ultra-rare (at the time) certified autographs. Just looking at their 2007 autograph checklist, they obviously had the right idea. If you busted a box of Best in ’07 you could of pulled a certified autograph of Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Braun, Tim Lincecum, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Joba Chamberlain, Matt Holiday, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard plus the hot prospects everyone wants. The only problem was the price tag of $250+ per box online and even more in Hobby shops.

If Topps cared about the old school collectors who once loved Bowman’s Best, they’d bring it back in 2009 but it looks like today it’s all about gimmicks, relics and the continuing Prospects War versus Razor, Tristar and Donruss. I am guessing we will see Bowman Little League cards before we ever see another release of Bowman’s Best. For card companies, money talks and old school walks.

It’s just a way of life.

The first Bowman Refractor - 95 Bowmans Best

First Bowman Refractor - '94 Bowman's Best

The First Bowman Xfractor - 96 Bowmans Best Atomic Refractor

First Bowman "Xfractor" - '96 Bowman's Best Atomic

First Bowman Chrome autograph - 97 Bowmans Best

First "Chrome" autograph - '97 Bowman's Best

You Be the Judge! – King of 1997

If ever there was one year that catered to the infamous “Joe Collector”, it was 1997. Sure, Topps Finest had already created the favored drug of the Joe Collector years earlier with the debut of the Refractor and made them much easier to come by thanks to Bowman’s Best and Topps Chrome, but 1997 was just a special year for trading cards, maybe baseball in general.

Below are ten of my favorite releases of that very special season of trading cards. In this very special ‘You Be the Judge’ I am asking you the collector to chime in with your favorite brand from 1997. Was it SPx, with it’s beautiful and sometimes creepy holographic images? How about the first-ever release of Bowman Chrome or the original Bowman “Chrome” autographs released by Bowman’s Best? Maybe like me, you are a “Pinnacle Man” who loves Certified and Totally Certified, or perhaps you keep it old school with the bad ass Topps Finest of the year. If you collect and love this hobby and were around in 1997, this is your chance to speak your mind. Is your favorite 1997 baseball release not pictured? Please, let us know!

Finally, here is a full scan of eight of the images combined which would make a decent wallpaper, if you are a big enough card collecting nerd. Unfortunately, I had to leave out two products and chose Upper Deck SPx and Bowman’s Best. You can view the Wax Heaven wallpaper by clicking HERE.

Upper Deck SPx

Pinnacle Totally Certified

E-X 2000 (Fleer)

Donruss Signature Series

Topps Finest

Flair Showcase (Fleer)

Leaf Limited (Donruss)

Bowman’s Best

Pinnacle Certified

Bowman Chrome

What was missing from ’96 Bowman?

If you were a rookie collector in 1996, there were two great products for you to feast on. For the old school collector, you had Bowman and for the “Joe Collector” like myself, there was Bowman’s Best, which featured lots of chrome and parallels (Refractors/Atomic Refractors). With two such great products one has to wonder why and when did they decide that it wasn’t enough because the very next year, Bowman released the first ever ‘Bowman Chrome’.

If you recall, ’97 Bowman Chrome was groundbreaking and today is arguably the most popular baseball product each and every year. It was great for collectors but in the end, Bowman killed off one product and decreased the interest in another one in 1997. By releasing ‘Chrome’, Bowman’s Best became obsolete almost overnight. As far as their flagship product, it never went on to hold much value as pretty much everyone wanted the ‘Chrome’ version instead.

In 2001, the legendary Bowman Chrome Albert Pujols surfaced, officially making Chrome the King of Baseball Cards, while putting the nail in the coffin of Bowman & Bowman’s Best. Today, Bowman is still somewhat popular but have been reduced to including one Chrome card per pack in order to keep collectors interested. Bowman’s Best has been upgraded (or reduced) to being a “high-end” product. 2007 Bowman’s Best were some of the nicest cards I have ever seen in almost twenty years of collecting but still all anyone in the hobby cared about was a 2007 Bowman Chrome rookie autograph of flame-throwing Yankee pitcher, Joba Chamberlain.

Bowman had a perfect product in 1996. Was it greed or the chase for evolution that drove them to creating Bowman Chrome. Whatever the case, there is one collector in South Florida who misses the days of Bowman and Bowman’s Best.

Here’s to keeping it “old school” and Atomic Refractors!